Replacement Mural For Humboldt Park
“A long-vacant lot in Humboldt Park will finally be developed, bringing housing and commercial space—but also blocking the view of an iconic mural,” reports the Sun-Times. “A mural by Humboldt Park native Antonio Beniquez faces California Avenue and Division… The artwork is simply ‘Humboldt’ in white Old English letters on a black wall. But at one-story high, it has become widely recognized as a neighborhood landmark—and its loss has, likewise, come to symbolize that neighborhood’s transformation.” Beniquez will provide a new mural for the nine-story, mixed-use development built by the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation. “The new mural will feature a hibiscus flower, symbolic of Puerto Rico, at the center, surrounded by multiple renderings of the letters ‘HP’ that will evoke the old mural.”
Former Chicagoan Ken Griffin Takes Art To Beach
Multibillionaire Ken Griffin, “Citadel founder and big-time GOP donor, proudly picked up stakes from Chicago and moved to Florida earlier this year. An eye-popping portion of his collection has quietly followed,” reports Vanity Fair. “Without fanfare, at least a billion dollars of Griffin’s art departed the second-biggest encyclopedic institution in the country and ended up in Palm Beach. The Norton declined to comment when asked about the new works in its collection, as did the Art Institute.” Griffin: “The Norton is one of our country’s most significant and beautiful museums… I hope South Florida families, students and visitors will enjoy and be inspired by these pieces and the thousands of works of art from all over the world displayed at the museum.”
Blocking Bike Lanes Now Costs $250
“Drivers who block bike lanes will face steeper fines and an increased risk of getting towed following a new crackdown,” reports Block Club. “The measure from Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) increases the fine for blocking a bike lane from $150 to $250, regardless of whether the violation results in a collision.”
Name That Snowplow
You can enter to name a Chicago snowplow until January 6 or 20,000 entries are submitted, reports the Trib. “The city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation launched its first-ever contest to name six snowplows—one for each snow district—in its fleet of almost 300 baby-blue ‘Snow Fighting Trucks.’” The proposed name, reports the Sun-Times, is limited to fifty characters. “Staffers at the Department of Streets and Sanitation will narrow down submissions to fifty finalists and then put them up for a citywide vote next month.” Enter here.
DINING & DRINKING
Goose Island Will Relocate Near Salt Shed
“Goose Island Beer is moving its Clybourn Avenue brewpub, where it got its start almost thirty-five years ago, to a spot along the river, overlooking the actual Goose Island,” Crain’s reports. The space will be near the Salt Shed at the Elston-Division intersection.
Proposed Kroger (Mariano’s)-Albertsons (Jewel) Merger Highlights Billions-Raking Corporate Raiding By Private Equity
“Albertsons wants to pay $4 billion to shareholders ahead of its proposed merger with Kroger, a move that would require the already debt-ridden company to borrow $1.5 billion,” reports the New York Times. Huge private equity concern Cerberus Capital Management with “some $60 billion in assets… the largest investor in Albertsons, the country’s second-largest supermarket chain by revenue… is planning to pay a $4 billion dividend to its investors—and to do it now, more than a year before the merger closes.” Cerberus, while holding only thirty-percent of the public company, “controls the Albertsons board.” Albertsons does not “have $4 billion in hand; it would have to borrow $1.5 billion, adding to its nearly $7.5 billion debt load.”
Billy Goat Tavern On A Kaiser Roll
At the Trib, Nick Kindelsperger remarks on the changes at the since-1934 Billy Goat under Michigan Avenue: “That kaiser roll was the burger’s most distinguishing feature. Though I’ve eaten hundreds of burgers around Chicago, I can’t think of another place that uses one.” Third-generation co-owner Bill Sianis “switched the bun last year. And he wasn’t even actively trying to make the change. During the pandemic, his bread supplier stopped producing fresh kaiser rolls, so he had to find a replacement. ‘We’re now using what’s called a yellow kaiser,’ Sianis said. ‘It’s sort of in between a kaiser roll and a brioche, so it’s sweeter and softer than a kaiser, but less buttery than brioche.'” Of the roll used before that, for fifteen years, Sianis said, “I’ve probably cut a million kaiser rolls over the years… The original kaiser roll was crispy, but once you put it on the grill it became soft as butter. It made the whole sandwich great. Then it became a little more dense after the oven broke.”
Yellow Banana Taking Over Former Whole Foods In Englewood
“Yellow Banana, which operates thirty-eight stores under the Save A Lot name, will partner with a yet-to-be-disclosed grocer to ‘stock the shelves’ at the closed Englewood Square store,” reports Block Club.
Intelligentsia Workers Ratify Contract
Workers at Intelligentsia Coffee have ratified a collective bargaining agreement, reports the Sun-Times, “a two-year contract that delivers wage increases and job protections,” according to Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “The contract covers thirty-one employees at Intelligentsia’s five [local] ‘coffeebars.’ The baristas and shift leads will get pay increases of about fourteen-percent over the term of the contract… It’s the IBEW’s first agreement with a coffee chain… Workers will for the first time be paid for mandated thirty-minute meal breaks and will earn double time for holidays, compared with the prior time-and-a-half… Baristas’ starting pay will be almost $18 an hour.”
Critic Punctuates Colon
“I have eaten my own weight in cholesterol-laden offal, sweetbreads, liver and other assorted organs. The sticky mucilaginous consistency of a goat eyeball taco once eaten at the Maxwell Street Market all but ensures such a thing has never left my system,” writes Michael Nagrant at The Hunger. “Then there’s the incredibly unnatural act known to foie gras ducks as gavage, whereby a foie farmer forces open the gullet of a duck and fills it with twice its weight in grain, which in turns leads to the delicious buttery engorgement of its liver. Food critics too perform gavage upon themselves, except that we call it pre-fixe dining. All the TikTok stunt guys think they’re metal, but I challenge any of them to try and kill twenty-plus food courses and gallons of high-end wine pairings regularly.” Nagrant moves on the matter of digestive health, not limited to “poops,” making a path to a recent colonoscopy. “Because I’m American, it is probably weirder to talk about my love of hockey than it is about my digestive system.” But talk he does: “The real driving motivation for choosing a traditional colonoscopy, however, is my deep and abiding laziness, which is to say I could avoid all of this for another decade if things went well.” More here.
FILM & TELEVISION
Siskel Hiring Department Assistant
The Film Center is hiring a full-time (thirty-five hours a week) department assistant. “If you are highly organized, detail-oriented and passionate about arts non-profits, we want to hear from YOU!” the organization posts on Instagram. Job description and application here.
Roster Of U. S. Book Challenges Expands
I Love Libraries is keeping a running list of American book challenges here; updates include Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Texas and a report of the surge of conservative groups driving book bans.
Get Lit: American Writers Museum Launches Happy Hour
The first Get Lit happy hour at the American Writers Museum is Tuesday, January 10. Further happy hours are set for the second Tuesday of every month, with themed programming that includes music, special tours and activities. January’s theme is “A Snowy Day,” with beer and wine, live music with Tim Fitzgerald and Tom Vaitsas, snowy poems from “Poems While You Wait” and a snow-themed photo booth. It’s $15 for AWM members and $25 for non-members. Tickets include after-hours admission to the museum and two drink tickets. Funds raised will go toward the Write In Youth Education Program. Tickets here.
Kevin Williams Leaving The Trib For Portugal
“In the ‘personal news’ category: Rolling into my last two weeks in the game. Retiring from the Tribune on 30 December. It’s been awesome, but it’s time,” Chicago Tribune newsroom veteran Kevin Williams posted on Twitter at the start of the weekend. “Too many people to thank, so I won’t try. You know who you are. I’m sixty-one, fit and ready to start a new life in Portugal. Our new digs are coming along and everything is groovy, except I keep mixing up French, Catalan and Portuguese. There’s work to be done.” Williams signs off with journalism’s customary “end” notation: “-30-”
NPR Cancels Summer Intern Program
“NPR announced the cancellation of its summer 2023 internship program, amid $10 million in budget cuts, close to three-percent of NPR’s annual budget, linked to an anticipated $20 million decline in corporate sponsorship revenue,” reports Inside Radio. NPR said in a statement, “A major portion of NPR’s revenue comes through corporate sponsorships, which are sensitive to changes… in the economy. Unfortunately this means we have to make hard choices and, in addition to a near hiring freeze, we made the difficult decision to cancel this summer’s internship program.” NPR itself notes that nearly one-sixth of current staffers at the network started as interns.
Twitter Tumult And Media Mourning: “It’s Not Yesterday Anymore”
There is a “near-constant string of shitty news coming out of Twitter since Elon Musk took over,” blogs journalist-educator Dan Sinker, including “opening the floodgates for the fascists that had been banned from the platform in recent years, to the predictable racist, homophobic, transphobic, and antisemitic attacks… Which sucks because, for me, despite all the reasons it was intolerable at times, Twitter was where I spent a great deal of my time. It’s where I made friends, met colleagues, cracked jokes, built lasting collaborations and yes, got a little bit famous for a bit… I’d say the last decade of my life is probably largely defined by Twitter (oh god), and so the month or two that has passed since Musk took over has felt, to me, a bit like grief. Look, I get it: Come on man, it’s Twitter. But also, you probably understand a little too. Our lives are so intertwined with the technology we use to live them that to lose a space inside our glowing rectangles feels like true loss. Because it is.”
“Downstate” Cast: “There’s No Way To Do A Good Job If You’re Judging The Character”
“So inflammatory” are the themes of Bruce Norris’ “Downstate” “that Steppenwolf, having received threats, had to hire additional security for the show’s run. And the production, now at the Off Broadway theater Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan after a… run at London’s National Theater, continues to attract controversy, such that anyone who describes it positively risks being seen as endorsing its subject matter,” reports Alexis Soloski at the New York Times. Actors Francis Guinan, K. Todd Freeman and Glenn Davis (an artistic director of Steppenwolf) discuss. Freeman: “I don’t believe in the term ‘monsters’ for human beings. I don’t like the otherness of that.” Guinan: The role has “opened the question of ‘what about the unforgivable in your own life?’ That’s a question I really have not answered for myself.” Davis: “I don’t think we as artists can predetermine the response from the audience. What I owe to the audience is a realistic portrayal of the given circumstance and to let them decide for themselves if they want to feel compassion.”
Chicago Improv Performer And Teacher Noah Gregoropoulos Was Sixty-Three
“Noah Gregoropoulos, an influential actor and teacher who helped build the skills of generations of Chicago improvisers, has died,” reports the Sun-Times. “As a performer, Gregoropoulos brought his droll intelligence to hundreds of Chicago shows, as a member of the iO team Carl and the Passions, as a regular at its ‘Armando Diaz Experience’ shows and in the cast of the groundbreaking 1990s show ‘Jazz Freddy.’… He also was a de facto artistic director at iO, teaching its top-level improv class and helping Charna Halpern arrange team and shows… At Second City he directed the theater’s first long-form improv show, ‘Lois Kaz,’ in 1994 and a 1998 revue at the e.t.c. theater called ‘If The White House Is A-Rockin’, Don’t Come A-Knockin’.'”
Improvised Shakespeare Returns
“Improvised Shakespeare Chicago” returns to iO every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm, starting January 13. “The dazzling players create a brand-new Shakespearean masterpiece each night. Nothing has been planned out, rehearsed, or written. The dialogue is said for the first time, the characters are created on the fly, and if the audience is wondering where the story is going… so are the performers!” The Chicago cast will include Brooke Breit, Mike Brunlieb, Joe Burton, Andy Carey, Bryan Duff, Erica Elam, Kiley Fitzgerald, Peter Gwinn, Mike Jimerson, Sayjal Joshi, Katie Klein, John Sabine, Kevin Sciretta, Blaine Swen (founder), Zach Thompson, Ric Walker (director) and Matt Young.” (From 2006 until the pandemic, there were 2,100 performances.)
The Washington Post goes beneath the verse of the current production. “Blaine Swen started the troupe in 2005 in Chicago while getting his doctorate in philosophy at Loyola University, and it has grown to become ‘one of the country’s elite improv companies’… For the four years preceding the pandemic, ISC played five times a week to packed houses at iO Theater in Chicago… Patrick Stewart has also guest-performed, and wrote in an essay for American Theatre that ‘it became clear to me there was only one thing to do: listen, Listen, LISTEN. Simply the fundamental element of all good acting.'” Tickets are $30 here.
The Neon Lights Less Bright On Broadway And Off
“Dozens of rehearsal spaces and rental theaters have closed over the last two years, leaving the downtown theater community with fewer and fewer resources,” reports Kirstyn Brendlen in an extended report in Manhattan paper AM NY. “‘Nobody wants to admit that they’re not selling tickets,’ said Karen Greco, who worked in public relations and communications for off-Broadway theaters for two decades before leaving the city in 2020. ‘Because of COVID, now Broadway is sort of admitting… sales are down, audiences are not coming back. And I think it’s the same for off-Broadway, and off-off Broadway, but nobody wants to talk about it.’ … Another challenging season may be coming for live entertainment as the ‘tripledemic’ of flu, COVID and RSV sweeps the city. Health authorities are once again recommending masks indoors, and inflation is still high.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Plan Holidays In The Loop
The Chicago Loop Alliance offers a guide to all the h0liday season attractions downtown here.
A Place For Pilsen Pietà In The New York Times
Chicago’s “Pilsen neighborhood used to be home to Polish immigrants. Now it’s mostly Latino. Both groups see much at stake in the fate of a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà,” reports Julie Bosman at the New York Times. “For more than five years, a group of Polish and Latino Catholics from Chicago and its suburbs has been waging a fierce but quixotic fight against the Archdiocese of Chicago… Their mission was about more than the statue. For the Polish… the church and the statue were monuments to their ancestors and a reminder of their ties to Pilsen, which was once an entry point… for Polish immigrants. For the Latinos, the fight was to preserve community anchors including churches, as the neighborhood becomes increasingly gentrified and working-class Mexican families are… forced out by rising rents.”
Cook County Basic Income Won’t Go As Far As Planned
“America’s biggest basic-income program is taking a whack from inflation,” reports Bloomberg. “A group of low-income residents of Cook County, Illinois is getting their first $500 checks this week from the $42 million two-year program, which organizers say is the largest-ever such initiative in the U.S. But with soaring prices for everything from food to fuel, more than 3,000 recipients will find that money won’t stretch nearly as far as when the grants were announced in May.” St. Louis joins the twenty-plus cities running pilot programs in the U. S. And Stanford has begun a dashboard tracking guaranteed income pilots and programs, described here and available here.
Strike By California Academic Workers Goes To Vote
“The University of California and 36,000 striking academic workers have reached a settlement,” posts labor reporter Steven Greenhouse. “The lowest-paid academic student employees, who now start at about $23,000 a year, would see salary boosts of over fifty-five-percent over the next two-and-a-half years.” The New York Times on the tentative settlement: “Union and university officials expressed optimism about the deal, although it still must be ratified by the rank-and-file of two fractious bargaining units of the United Auto Workers, the union that represents the academic employees.”
Final Christmas For Little Village Discount Mall?
“After thirty-one years, the lease for the hundred or so tenants of the busy shopping center on 26th Street expires next month, and the owner has not announced what will happen to the property,” reports the Sun-Times. “Since opening in 1991, the Discount Mall at the intersection of 26th and Albany streets, near the iconic ‘Bienvenidos a Little Village’ arch, has become a destination for Mexican and Latino shoppers.”
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